Saturday, December 10, 2005

Choices are the hinges of destiny

Yesterday I ground to a halt, feeling completely exhausted. This week, on top of my usual crazy routine, I've been preparing grounds for appeal on my daughter's non-selection for grammar school.

As well as (just about) holding down my full-time job, I've been ferrying children between school and various out-of-school activities, rehearsing for a carol concert, supporting my daughter at a cross-country meet, taking her to her violin exam, going to the school carol concert, meeting friends who have been through the whole process to get advice on how to proceed, meeting with my daughter's head teacher to discuss her support, and last night collapsing with a friend and a (much-needed) bottle of wine.

So, my application for appeal is in now in the post, winging its way to the LEA who think my little girl isn't good enough.

Several things have struck me over this week, and one of them is how many people keep information from their children. Information that affects their future. I know 10 is young, but 10 year olds think deeply. They also worry if they think you're hiding something from them. The letter we received last week telling us that Rose had not passed her 11 plus exam included in an enclosed brochure the advice to "Think carefully before letting your child read the enclosed results letter, which is addressed to you not your child. ..but it is your choice, so consider this carefully especially if the result is unexpected." As if you're going to read the brochure before you look at the results, and then say to little Timmy "I think it's best you don't see this, but don't worry your little head about it"!

I've heard of one set of parents have taken this advice to heart and hadn't told their child his results nearly a week after everyone else had received them. He'd failed, which was no doubt obvious to him otherwise surely they'd have told him straight away. It's a tough thing to land on your 10 year old, but surely better to be honest and open.

My daughter knows that I'm going for the appeal - she was involved in the decision to go ahead with it. She very much wants to follow her older sister to the local grammar school, and I needed to know that was the case before I went ahead. I've also been honest with her about our low chances of success, with the reassurance that I will do absolutely everything I can to succeed. And I've talked to her about other schools and taken on board her views. After all it is her life we're making decisions about, and I don't consider I have ownership.

It's a delicate balancing act between giving her too much choice and responsibility at a young age, and being over-protective. And it's all brought back to mind having to make a similar decision myself.

When I was about 10 we were living in Kenya, and I was at a boarding school in the UK. I loved it, even though I was a long way from home so could only be there for the three main holidays. After I'd been there for about 18 months and I was home for the Christmas holidays, Dad had a long chat with me about how business wasn't going well and we were just about broke. He said that one saving would be for me to leave boarding school and go to a local school, but that if I really wanted to stay there he'd find the money somehow. It was my decision and there was no desperate hurry to make up my mind.

I agonised. I loved school, I had wonderful friends, I liked boarding - it made me feel independent. But there was a huge responsibility in that staying there would be a financial strain for the rest of the family. I was torn between what I wanted and what I thought was the right thing to do. I didn't think I could make the decision, and I wanted it made for me. But eventually I did it.

We had all gone to see my uncle off at the airport. The whole family was there - aunts, uncles, cousins, Mum, Dad, my sister & me. Fred was coming back to the UK on business. We all said good bye to him and sat in the airport viewing lounge watching him and the other passengers walk across the tarmac and up the stairs onto the plane. I was sat next to Dad, so I turned to him and said "I think I'll go to school here". "Ok", he replied and we said no more about it until a few years ago.

The trigger for my decision was the realisation that I couldn't face saying goodbye to my family and walking across that tarmac with the air hostess (as they were called then) and travelling all that way on my own, feeling very small and alone. And Dad was relieved because every time he'd waved me off, he'd (totally unknown to me) wept buckets seeing his little girl disappear like that.

It was probably the most difficult decision I've had to make, but I'm grateful to Dad for allowing me that responsibility. I hope I'm strong enough to give my children similar gifts.


Blogger Rick said...

Having to make decisions is now what I do best.

I agree on keeping children informed, how else will they learn about life...

6:31 pm  

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